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MacBook Pro Retina Display Teardown 

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MacBook Pro Retina Display Teardown 

Author: Walter Galan 

Tools used in this guide 

• Phillips #00 Screwdriver (1) 

• iFixit 6 Inch Metal Ruler (1) 

• iSesamo Opening Tool (1) 

In case you missed it, we tore apart the new MacBook Pro 15" Retina Display Mid 2012 last week. Inside, we found a whole 
mess of pretty, yet difficult to access components. In fact, the MacBook Pro with Retina display earned our lowest 
repairability score ever, with 1 out of 10 points. 

What we didn't look at earlier, however, is the MacBook Pro's namesake: the Retina display. Apple claims that the Retina 
display in the MacBook Pro is the most stunning display to ever grace the lid of a notebook computer. "But at what cost?' 
we find ourselves asking. Being the repair-minded folks that we are, we feel that the only fair way to answer that question is 
to give this new display "the iFixit treatment": open it up and look! We may not be opthalmologists, but we are excited to be 
doing surgery on a Retina display. Join us as we investigate the intricacies of Apple's most stunning display. 

Do you wake up in the middle of the night, tossing and turning in anticipation for iFixit's next teardown? Follow us on Twitter 
and get some rest. We'll keep you up to date with all the hottest gadget teardowns! 

Step 1 — MacBook Pro Retina Display 

• Here it is: the impenetrable fortress of pixels known 
as the Retina display. 

• Despite our initial apprehension about tearing down 
such an impressive (and expensive) piece of 
equipment, we are very curious to see for ourselves 
just how Apple managed to squeeze more than an 
entire HDTV inside a 15" display. 

• At first glance, it looks like a normal MacBook Pro 
display assembly with a skinnier bezel and no logo 
at the bottom. 

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MacBook Pro Retina Display Teardown 

Step 2 

Would you call us crazy if we told you that the 
display assembly from the latest MacBook Pro is the 
same size as its predecessor? 

• You caught us; we lied. The new display is 

actually a fraction of a millimeter smaller than the 
old one. Neat! 

At its fattest point, the display assembly is a hair 
over 7 mm thick, and all the way down to just over 3 
mm at the edges. 

What's astounding is that Apple's engineers 
managed to cram four times the pixels of the 
previous 15" MacBook Pro into a display assembly 
that is (nearly) the same size. 

The big savings here is weight, not thickness. The 
Retina display weighs in at 673 grams, while a 
standard 15" MacBook Pro display tips the scale at 
908 grams. That's a solid 25% weight savings! 

The disassembly begins pretty routinely. Like most 
Apple laptops, the clutch cover pries off fairly easily 
with a plastic opening tool . 

But differences start popping up as soon as the 
clutch cover comes off. The array of antennas 
underneath the clutch cover looks a lot more 
involved than in previous generations. 

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MacBook Pro Retina Display Teardown 

Wg^^- Step 4 

The left display hinge comes out with no issues, but 
good luck separating it from the display data cable. 

Devices with cables fed through hinges can be a real 
bear to work on. None of that will be an issue with 
this machine, though, as the display hinge is pretty 
much sealed shut at the factory. Rather than routing 
the cable under a cable retainer -- as it's done in non- 
Retina MacBook Pros -- you just have to replace 
both cable and hinge together. 

Don't think that the guys (and gals) who designed 
this machine are just out to get you. Routing the 
cables through the hinge is a way to save space and 
weight in the laptop. 

Step 5 

In the opposite corner we find another hinge that 
holds the antenna and FaceTime cables captive. 

Again, if you need to replace these cables, the hinge 
has got to go, as well. That might not be so bad, but 
having to replace all of those cables just because a 
hinge breaks would be less than ideal. 

Markings on the inverter board read LP154WT1 (SJ) 
(A1) GD. Given that the board is soldered to the rest 
of the display, it appears to be a display 
manufactured by LG Philips. 

©iFixit — CCBY-NC-SA 

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MacBook Pro Retina Display Teardown 


Step 6 

Things go back to being a little more familiar as we 
begin pulling off the rubber display gasket. 

We were pleasantly surprised to find Phillips screws 
holding the Retina display in place. If you are trying 
to repair your Retina display and made it this far, you 
have earned the right to lay down your pentalobe and 
Torx bits and dust off your Phillips drivers. 

The 1 mm gap between the aluminum panel and LCD 
layers might not seem very large, but to dust and 
debris it's a gaping hole. 

Q: What happens when you hand over a 
groundbreaking notebook display to a group of 
careful, highly trained technicians? 

A: They break it. 

We were as careful as we could possibly be, but the 
glass on the Retina display is just too fragile. 

So, how badly did we break it? Well, upon closer 
inspection we noticed two very distinct lines running 
around the perimeter of the display, the inner of 
which was filled with tiny bubbles. 

• Could those be the LCs of our LCD? 

©iFixit — CCBY-NC-SA 

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MacBook Pro Retina Display Teardown 

Step 8 

Once we got over the fact that obliterating the front 
panel of the display was the only way to get it out, 
we grabbed the skinniest tool we could find — an iFixit 
6" ruler — and started prying. 

With the top and sides of the display panel freed, we 
were able to slide the shattered remains out of the 
display assembly. 

There were two thin strips of adhesive underneath 
the glass holding it in place, with a pattern that 
closely matched our trail of bubbles. 

So, what's the lesson here? If you want a world-class 
laptop screen that doesn't take up much real estate, 
don't expect to be able to pop it out and back in at 

Step 9 

Unfortunately, the Retina display is not nearly as 
impressive when it's been beaten and broken, but it 
is still impressively thin. 

The glued layers are about 1.5 mm thick, and that 
includes the metal mounting plates. 

We need to clarify this before continuing 
with the teardown; Apple did not design and 
build a 1.5 mm thin LCD panel. They did, 
however, do something exceptional with the design 
of this display: rather than sandwich an LCD panel 
between a back case and a front glass, they used 
the aluminum case itself as the frame for the LCD 
panel and used the LCD as the front glass. 

• TL;DR: The entire display assembly is an LCD 


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MacBook Pro Retina Display Teardown 

Step 10 

• At last! With the LCD removed, we can remove the 
antenna and FaceTime cables from the display 

• The camera cable is routed along the outside edge of 
the display assembly, making replacement very 
difficult and costly. Thankfully the cameras fail very 
infrequently, if at all. 

• If the FaceTime camera were placed at the bottom of 
the display, it would likely be much easier to replace, 
but we wonder what kind of awkward side effects 
that would cause. 

• Disclaimer: iFixit does not believe that 
the FaceTime camera should be placed 
at the bottom of the display assembly. 
That is a silly idea. 


iSight, uSight, we all sigh at lame jokes. Anyway, 
iSight is a thing of the past. This MacBook Pro has a 
FaceTime camera, allowing you to video chat with 
your grandmother in full HD. 

The camera board comes out easily enough, 
considering the work it took to get there. 

The camera interfaces with the rest of the computer 
via the Vimicro VC0358 USB camera interface IC. 

©iFixit — CCBY-NC-SA 

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MacBook Pro Retina Display Teardown 


Step 12 

• Underneath the top layer of the LCD, we find a series 
of films and sheets that manipulate light before 
sending it to the user's eye. 

• Warning, the explanation we're about to give 
is painfully abridged. If you want an easy- 
to-understand take on how LCDs work, 
check out "Bill The Engineer Guy's" teardown of an 
LCD monitor . 

• Diffuser and prism films evenly spread the light to 
create an even backlight for the display panel. A 
stationary polarizing sheet then works in conjunction 
with the liquid crystals to block or allow light for each 
pixel, all 5+ million of them. 

Step 13 

• The light guide plate is held down by a small strip of 
mild adhesive — nothing like we saw before. 

• Erring on the side of caution, we proceded very 
slowly with our modified iSesamo opening tool and 
removed the plate. 

• Backlight bounces through the plate due to total 
internal reflection until it hits one of those tiny dots, 
which sends the light up and out of the front of the 

• By the way, the third picture is an image of the grid 
found in the clear plastic plate being removed in the 
second picture. We had to coerce it a bit in 
Photoshop in order to make it show its grid. 

©iFixit — CCBY-NC-SA 

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MacBook Pro Retina Display Teardown 

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Step 14 

• The plain-looking sheet of white paper serves as a 
uniform white background for the LCD's backlight. 

• What else would you use to light an LED-backlit 
display? LEDs, of course! 

• A strip of 48 LEDs at the bottom of the display 
assembly provides all the light your Retina display 

Step 15 

• There's no real reason to pull the foam off the inside 
of the back case, but this is a teardown, so we're 
doing it. 

• We suspect that the foam is there to provide a 
flat, even surface for the LCD glass to brace 
against. But there is one thing that we do know 
about it: it is super sticky. 

• The bottom edge of the case has two features that 
we found pretty neat: a laser engraved data matrix 
code and a nifty arrangement of round indentations. 

• Upon further inspection and with the help of some 
keen-eyed readers, it appears that those dots form 
the pattern of a glider from Conway's Game of Life, 
the universal symbol for hackers. 

• That sixth dot to the right, though? Apparently, if 
you were to place that dot while playing, it would 
place the entire game in a state of death. Is 
Apple trying to send us a message? 

©iFixit — CCBY-NC-SA 

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MacBook Pro Retina Display Teardown 

Step 16 

• And there you have it, the Retina display from the 
new MacBook Pro. 

• Normally we would provide you with a repairability 
score at this point, but since this display is part of 
another device , that's not really appropriate. 

• What we can tell you is that if anything in the display 
assembly breaks, you'll need to replace the whole 
thing. It will be more expensive than just replacing 
the LCD inside a regular MacBook Pro, but it will 
also make the choice (of whether to replace just LCD 
or entire display assembly) very easy. 

To reassemble your device, follow these instructions in reverse order. 

This document was last generated on Aug 1 , 201 2. 

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